The Making of a Blog

Since I just went through a number of hoops migrating my blog from edublogs.org to typepad, I thought I would put down some of the things that I was thinking about when I was creating this “new” blog.  There are many of you who already blog, some simply Facebook, others may think that it is too hard to create and keep up a blog, and there are some who have a blog and either see features on other blogs you would like to have, or are wondering how someone did “X”.

Now there are a number of amazing blogs out there and mine can’t compete with many of them, but I thought I would let you behind the scenes a bit with what I have done, and am hoping to still do with mine. 

Self-Hosting or Hosted

First, you really need to decide what level of technical experience you have and the setup / updating / upgrading commitment you want to make.  This will help you to determine whether you want to self-host a blog engine or have someone else host it for you.  Overall, I see two major benefits to self-hosting: control and customization. 

  • With a self-hosted blog, you have the ultimate control.  You can upgrade when you wish to (keeps a host from upgrading on you and breaking a crucial add-on) or not.  Additionally, you are not at the whim of the host who can trim services you have grown accustom to or worse move them from free to a cost for use.  Both of those situations happened to me with edublogs.
  • With a self-hosted blog you have the ultimate customization.  You can add any plug-in, add-on, widget, etc.  You can custom code your template and anything else in on your blog.

However, with self-hosting you are often on your own when an upgrade did not go as planned, you have custom coded to a point you cannot upgrade, you come under a specific spam or DDoS (Direct Denial of Service) attack…

The second option is a hosted blog using a blogging service like: Blogger, Microsoft Spaces, WordPress, Typepad, and many others. These services offer a variety of levels from completely free blogs to premium and business accounts that allow whole organizations to have blogs for their employees.  Additionally, there are differing levels of support, features, and benefits that come along with the differing levels of costs. If you are interested in starting a hosted blog, most have a “trial period” that will allow you to play with the service for 14-30 days to ensure this is the choice for you. Almost all are really easy to signup and setup with just a few clicks.

blogger

spaces 

wordpress

typepad

Another thing to think about when choosing a host (especially it you are a teacher an plan on having your students blog at some point.  A number of the services like Edublogs.org and Class Blogmeister have functionality for easily and safely setting up student blogs.  This will also depend on the grade level you teach and your goals for the blogs.  I know of one secondary school where the choice was to go with a Live Spaces account for each student in a major 1:1 initiative. One of the goals is for teacher – student secure sharing via skydrive, but the other is giving students a voice that they can keep after they finish high school and to begin the awareness of managing their digital footprint.

Choosing a Blog Engine

Ok, so when choosing a blog engine have a purpose and possible future in mind. 

While having a strong technical background, and having run servers in the past, one might think that I would prefer to self-host… that thought did cross my mind, and I explored the various possibilities, but I really didn’t want the possible hassles of forcing everything to work… So, my choice needed to be a hosted environment. 

Here were my criteria:

  • Easy to use
  • Good integration with many social services (facebook, flickr, twitter, etc.)
  • Mobile Blogging capabilities
  • Cost effective
  • Access to a variety of templates and widgets at any level as opposed to getting increased capabilities ONLY if you upgrade.
  • Ability to map a domain (no more myblog.whatever.whatever.com)
  • Decent bandwidth and storage

After a couple months of off and on trials, Typepad fit my needs best. So, after signing up for a trial, and beginning to walk through the setup, I went on to the next steps.

Getting a Domain Name

To obtain a domain name you simply need to go to a domain registrar and see if the name you are looking for is available.  Click here for a list of the top ranking domain registrars. The other choice you will need to make will be the domain extension.  The most popular top level domain is .com which you see just about everywhere… other popular domain extensions are: .net .biz .info among others.  I chose to register with godaddy.com. I have used godaddy in the past and they provide not only domain registration services, but may other services including hosting as well. About $11 later, I held my new domain. Now there is a stated 24-72 hour wait time for the domain name to be propagated throughout the internet switches and servers throughout the world… pretty daunting when you think about it, yet it is commonplace happening many many many times each day relatively flawlessly and painlessly for you the end user.

domainmap Once the domain name is propagated throughout the internet you need to connect it to your blog.  Typepad makes this process a simple wizard function.  It even goes to the extent of warning you to NOT attempt to activate the domain until it fully resolves throughout the internet or it will in essence break your blog… it’s true… I tried it for kicks and your style sheet goes bye bye. It is easy to deactivate the domain map, and everything returns to happiness, but be sure to read the fine print when domain mapping (and don’t panic, you can’t really break anything).

Now you are setup!

Tomorrow: On to customizing your new blog

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